Passover’s True Unifying Message: “Salvation through Substitution”

John 1:29  “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

KCTV-5 recently ran a story on the “Unity Seder” hosted by Kansas City’s Jewish Community Relations Bureau, to have “Community and faith leaders talk with the public and elected officials about Passover and how it relates to the world we live in now.” Gavriela Geller, the Relations Bureau’s Exec. Director, explained the Passover celebration as a multi-cultural event that should appeal to today’s human-centered culture.

“The themes central to the Seder are liberation from oppression or fleeing the land that you’ve always known and hopes for a better life. We have been through a lot as a society this past year and a lot of that has been incorporated into our Seder. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement. Our commitment to racial justice in this country has been incorporated into our Seder as it’s so relevant for the themes of liberation from oppression.” So, we see BLM in the Seder? In an effort to bring unity, Geller tried again:

“We’re coming together with this event to understand that while much progress has been made, we don’t live in a world in which all people are truly free,” she said. “It really is about reaffirming that commitment to working together towards a world in which all are liberated.” As is so often the case, context is everything.

This incessant message America’s systemic racism has nothing to do with the nation of Israel’s celebration of their liberation from Egyptian slavery. What the Jews are celebrating is God’s deliverance: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

In addition to alleged systemic racism, it sounds like Geller is also appealing to the dire situation at the US border, where immigrants are “fleeing the land that you’ve always known and hopes for a better life”?

Again, this is not why the Jews celebrate Passover. It was not a story of Jewish immigrants who wanted to flee Egypt in hopes for a better life. It was the God of Israel who sent His deliverer to rescue them from slavery, because in His mercy He heard their cries: “The children of Israel groaned because of the slavery. So, God heard their groaning, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and He acknowledged them” (Exodus 3:23-25).

This year’s Passover celebration, which starts next Saturday (March 27) and ends Sunday (April 4), is all about sharing the Seder meal to remember two major events: 1) God’s deliverance of Jewish people from Egyptian slavery, and 2) the salvation from the 10th plague by substitution. Let’s take a deeper look.

When Joseph, and then the Pharoah Joseph served died, the new Pharoah made slaves of the Jews. God sent Moses to free them. The new Pharaoh refused, so God sent 9 plagues on Egypt to compel Pharoah to “let My people go”. It is significant that most of these 9 plagues were only on Egypt, not Israel. Their cattle didn’t die (Exodus 9:6). Their crops weren’t hailed on (Exodus 9:26). Even their land didn’t go dark (Exodus 10:23). Israel did nothing to justify God’s special treatment. The Lord simply aimed the plagues onto Egypt.

But the 10th and final plague was different. God aimed at everyone this time. Apart from some unforeseen provision, God was going to strike down all the firstborn, whether Egyptian or Israelite. Why?

Because despite being God’s chosen people, and despite being oppressed for centuries, the truth is the like the Egyptians, the Jews were and have always been sinners. Because He is just, He cannot ignore sin. But as He demonstrated by sending Moses, He is also merciful and compassionate. So, what did God do?

On that first Passover, God devised a way to be both just and merciful at the same time. Christians and Jews alike know this as “Salvation through Substitution.” The message of the 10th plague is that God’s holiness and justice does not discriminate, but the message of Passover is that God’s mercy does.

How does God’s mercy discriminate? His 10th plague was the death of every household’s firstborn. But for those who sacrificed a Spotless Lamb and applied its blood to their doorposts, the angel of death “Passed Over” that house when he saw the blood (Exodus 11-12). That household was saved from certain death. Only those who trusted God by following His instructions were saved. The blood of God’s Lamb paid for their sins, satisfying God’s holiness and justice. Fast forward to 30AD. As Passover began in Israel, John the Baptist announced this week’s verse when He saw Jesus Christ: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Christ, our Passover Lamb, is the Unifying Message needed in America today.

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